Eric Baleviez - Safra

Commercial and Services Director

Eric Baleviez is the Commercial and Services Director at Safra. After 30 years of experience in urban mobility, first as a user (operator) and then as an electric vehicle manufacturer, Eric decided to join the hydrogen sector at Safra.

Safra was founded in 1955: how did the company start building hydrogen buses?

Originally, Safra was a bodywork company that gradually shifted towards vehicle renovation. The desire to extend the lifespan of vehicles has been part of the company's DNA since the beginning.

In 2011, the current President, who was then an engineer, Vincent Lemaire, decided to embark on the great adventure of building electric and then hydrogen buses. After an initial Businova, which was very groundbreaking for its time, they switched to "bus start-up" mode to design and build vehicles that meet high standards in terms of safety, performance, equipment, and certification.

Today, they have also integrated Retrofit activity into their range. It was a logical progression to combine their expertise in renovation and hydrogen innovation.

Do you have a small anecdote to share about Safra's history?

Our first hydrogen Businova was designed by only about ten people! It was the starting point of the great story that we writing now.

What is your greatest victory?

Today, there are about 20,000 buses running in France. Among them, 35 run on hydrogen, including 23 from Safra. It's a great source of pride!

Peter Parker became Spiderman because of a radioactive spider bite. What got you into hydrogen?

Throughout my career, I realized that the way hydrogen vehicles are manufactured and sold needs to be revised to reduce their cost of ownership. A hydrogen vehicle costs more to buy than a diesel vehicle, but in the long run, you can play with technical elements or operating methods to reduce overall costs.

That's how I switched to the manufacturing side.

And then, I fell in love with Safra's story, a French, human-sized company with a strong desire to invigorate our territories. We are actually the only 100% French player since we carry out studies, design, and construction in France (we even use a French fuel cell).

Finally, I work with passionate people of all ages and experiences, which is very stimulating!

Batman has his Joker, Peter Pan has Captain Hook... what do you fight against daily?

When you get into hydrogen, you often face many obstacles, whether they be financial or regulatory, for example, but also mentalities that are still skeptical about this energy vector. It's a daily struggle to move forward, step by step.

I also fight against an aging industrial environment, very routine, and full of historical rules.

With Safra and generally all hydrogen players, we try to shake things up! That's what drives us!

Is hydrogen the future?

Hydrogen should be part of a mix and combined with other forms of mobility, such as electric, for example. Hydrogen won't solve all problems, but it's an essential key to the ecological transition, yes.

When I see how fast we are moving forward every day at Safra, I am hopeful that we will leave a great legacy of what we are building in 50 years. We have already laid the foundations, and the outlines of the puzzle, now we just have to put the pieces in the middle.

In your opinion, why is hydrogen so topical?

I think hydrogen contributes to addressing the major challenges of our time:

  • The ecological crisis, if the hydrogen produced is 100% green
  • Territorial economic development (we will soon have 300 employees at Safra)
  • Geopolitical challenges: hydrogen allows France to move towards energy independence
  • Societal challenges: hydrogen helps to reduce diseases related to air pollution

Do you have 2 pieces of advice to give to those considering switching to hydrogen?

My first piece of advice is to evaluate whether hydrogen is really the right solution for your problem. For example, in passenger transport, it could be the perfect solution if you want to transport more people over longer distances.

My second piece of advice is to think in terms of an ecosystem. For example, if you want to switch to hydrogen and know that your product and service ranges will expand, then take advantage of that by converting other vehicles to hydrogen as well. This could include light utility vehicles. This allows you to use the production station for multiple purposes.

< Back to all Heroes